Selected tags: Food Security

Catch Shares: Harvesting Sustainable Catches

Originally published on November 18, 2013 on the Oceans Health Index Website


Introduction

Written by Steven Katona, Managing Director, Ocean Health Index

Maximizing sustainable food production from the ocean by harvest of wild fish stocks and production of farmed species by mariculture is one of the 10 goals evaluated by the Ocean Health Index, and it is especially closely watched because it is so critical for the future.

Three billion people out of today’s world population of 7.1 billion people depend on seafood for their daily protein and fish contribute a greater proportion of protein to the average diet than poultry.  A single serving of fish or shellfish (150 g) provides 60% of a person’s daily protein requirement, but the ocean’s continued ability to meet that need is in doubt.  Our population is rising steadily and will reach about 8 billion by 2024 and 9 billion by 2040, but the annual catch from wild ocean fisheries has stayed at about 80 million metric tons since about 1990 despite increased effort.  The reason is that too many stocks are overfished and too much productivity is sacrificed as bycatch, illegal and unregulated catch and as a result of habitat loss caused by destructive fishing practices.

Yet without increased wild harvest and augmented mariculture production, the risk of malnutrition will increase for hundreds of millions of people, because the catch will have to be shared by so many more mouths.

Why would we expect fish landings to increase in the future if they haven’t done so since 1990? Clearly with business as usual, they won’t, but a number of new strategies and tools offer hope.  Catch shares is one of them.  We’re pleased to welcome Kate Bonzon, Director of Environmental Defenses Fund’s Catch Share Design Center, to explain how catch shares are working worldwide and highlight some of their benefits.

Even though catch shares have been used in a diversity of fisheries around the world, the idea of catch shares is new in many places, and it has occasioned some misunderstanding and subsequent debate around the best way to manage fisheries.  However, catch shares give a powerful incentive and opportunity for fishers to care for their fish stocks, thereby improving the consistency, sustainability and possibly magnitude of their catches, while also improving their livelihoods.

More sustainable fishing will not only help fishers and fish stocks, but it will also improve scores on many of the other goals evaluated by the Ocean Health Index.  Of course there are trade-offs between the goals, but meeting the goals for sustainability embodied within each goal will improve the ocean’s ability to sustainably deliver a range of benefits to people now and in the future.  What’s more, the ocean’s animals, plants and habitats will benefit too.

Catch Shares: Harvesting Sustainable Catches

Fish were once thought to be so abundant that we could take our fill and never deplete them; that wild fisheries were inexhaustible and would always be plentiful. But over the past few decades, there is growing recognition that most of the world's wild fisheries are in trouble and fishing has had a tremendous impact. Globally, nearly two-thirds of wild fisheries are overfished, leaving depleted fish stocks and low yields. New evidence on fisheries with little data, which account for 80% of the global catch, is especially concerning. Once thought to be relatively stable, many of these fisheries are, in fact, overfished and facing collapse. Depletion of this resource threatens not only ocean health but the billions of people who depend on fish for food and jobs.

The good news is fisheries are a renewable resource. And the key to sustainably managing them is ensuring there are enough fish left in the ocean to produce future generations. Future fish generations will keep fresh and sustainable seafood on the plates of the billions of people around the world who rely on them for protein, and wages in the pockets of millions of fishing industry workers who depend on them to support their livelihoods.

And there is more good news. There are effective fishery management programs-called catch shares-that are doing all of the above. As of 2013, about 200 catch shares programs are  managing more than 500 different species in 40 countries. Very much like dividing a pizza or pie, catch shares give a secure fishing area or privilege to catch a share of a fishery’s total allowable catch to an individual or group. And with this privilege, fishing participants are expected to fish within their allotted amount.

The success of catch shares lies in the ability to give fishermen a long-term stake in the fishery and tie their current behavior to future environmental outcomes. Specifically, catch shares align fishermen’s incentives through a system of rights, responsibilities and rewards. By giving fishermen the privilege or right to a secure area or share of the catch, fishermen also retain the responsibility to conserve fish stocks and marine ecosystems and are subsequently rewarded by stable and healthy fish populations. Importantly, catch shares are flexible and can be custom designed to meet the different characteristics and goals of diverse fisheries.  Some catch share programs have allocated shares to groups—often called Cooperative catch shares—and others have allocated shares to individuals—often called Individual Fishing Quotas (IFQs) or Individual Transferable Quotas (ITQs).  Area-based catch shares, often called Territorial Use Rights for Fishing, or TURFs, allocate secure, exclusive areas to fishermen. And within these differing types of catch shares are a multitude of design features that have, and can, be used to meet different goals. Around the world, from small artisanal fisheries to large commercial fishing operations, well-designed catch share programs are increasing compliance with catch limits, reducing the amount of bycatch and discarded fish, increasing revenues and reducing fishing expenses, proving that good yields can indeed happen sustainably. A 2011 study of 345 fish stocks around the world found that those managed with catch shares had significantly lower cases of overexploitation when compared to conventional management practices. And another study found that the implementation of these systems “halts, and even reverses—widespread fishery collapse.” This positive trend is largely driven by catch shares ability to encourage compliance with mortality controls.

Numerous studies on these fisheries have reported a dramatic drop in bycatch and discarded fish including a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report which found that catch share fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico reduced red snapper discards by 50% in 2010, just three years after a catch share program was implemented. And in some fisheries like the Alaskan pollock fishery, fishermen create voluntary no-take zones to avoid bycatch of at-risk species while targeting specific species. In the Alaska halibut fishery after just one year of catch share implementation, there was an 80% drop in ghost fishing (when lost or abandoned gear continues to kill fish). Read More »

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Rebuilding Global Fisheries for Food Security: The Time is Now!

A spawning aggregation of the bigeye trevally, Caranx sexfasciatus, Cabo Pulmo National Park, Mexico.

A spawning aggregation of the bigeye trevally, Caranx sexfasciatus, Cabo Pulmo National Park, Mexico.
Photo Credit: Octavio Aburto-Oropeza/Marine Photobank

“Unleashing the self-interest of local fishermen to advance both conservation and economic development can create one of those rare win-win scenarios.” This powerful quote from a recent op-ed, beautifully describes what is at the core of EDF’s mission to save fisheries.

The authors of that op-ed, Carl Safina, founding president of the Blue Ocean Institute at Stony Brook University, and Brett Jenks, chief executive of Rare, called attention to both the global depletion of fisheries AND the solution. They discuss how despite growing concern about the dire state of global fish populations, there is hope to rebuild them. “Why are we hopeful? They write, “It’s because the analysis of global fisheries has a silver lining. We have not reached a point of no return. We have time. Solutions exist.”

They draw from the first comprehensive analysis of more than 10,000 fisheries in the journal Science which finds that, "When sustainably managed, marine fisheries provide food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people worldwide.”  Fisheries and food security for future generations are a challenge that we believe can be solved by partnering with fishermen to find common solutions, but we must act now.

The United States has made great progress in fisheries management.  Almost two-thirds of fish landed in the United States are done so under a catch share.   However,  the United States is just one piece of the puzzle,  Safina and Jenks point out that, “small-scale fishers — who fish within 10 miles of their coast — account for nearly half of the world’s global catch and employ 33 million of the world’s 36 million fishermen, while also creating jobs for 107 million people in fish processing and selling [pdf]. Mostly poor, they live mainly in areas lacking fisheries management, monitoring and enforcement.” Read More »

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New Science Paper: Status and Solutions for the World’s Unassessed Fisheries

Grey Reef Sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) cruise through the reef passes among large schools of surgeonfish in Fakarava, French Polynesia.

Photo Credit: Gerick Bergsma 2010/Marine Photobank

The world’s fish stocks can be rebuilt to provide more nourishment and economic value to the millions of people who rely on the ocean for food—if we step up now and make aligning these incentives a global priority.

The magazine Science has published a study that provides new insights into thousands of fisheries where scientific data has not been historically available.  These “data poor” fisheries make up a majority of the world’s catch, around 80 percent. According to this new research, many of these fisheries are facing collapse, but there is still time to turn the situation around. The study indicates that it is possible for fisheries to recover globally, which would increase the abundance of fish in the ocean by 56% and in some fisheries’ yields could more than double.

With these new assessments, fishery managers and world leaders can have a more comprehensive view of the status of our global fisheries.  There are many new insights into previously unmeasured fisheries, using new methodology that can have enormous implications for managing the resource sustainably.

The report also provides some hope and insights on how the world can reverse these trends. Read More »

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FAO Reports 87% of the World’s Fisheries are Overexploited or Fully Exploited

FAO Logo

The Food and Agriculture Organization has some good news and some bad news for us about the world’s fisheries (State of the World Fisheries & Aquaculture Report).  The good news is that global fisheries and aquaculture production increased over the last few years, and people are eating more fish – a healthy source of protein.  The bad news is that ocean fish catches went down and the percentage of the world's assessed fish stocks that are overexploited or fully exploited went up to 87%.  Aquaculture, the farming of fish, is increasing rapidly to meet growing consumer demand for seafood.  While some aquaculture production operations have small environmental footprints, the sustainability of the industry overall is unknown.  What does it mean for ocean productivity and the health of ocean ecosystems to remove 15 million tons of fish (19% of the total catch) every year and feed it to other fish?

The truly scary story behind the headlines is that these data only provide a glimpse of the whole picture, which is uncertain but troubling.  The FAO's estimates of fishery status (e.g., the number of stocks that are fully exploited or overexploited) are based on studies of only a tiny fraction of the world's fisheries.  These are the best managed fisheries in the world — thousands of other stocks are not assessed at all, and many have minimal or ineffective management systems in place.  Moreover, a lot of these un-assessed and undermanaged fisheries are prosecuted in tropical coral reefs and other ecosystems that harbor a wealth of the ocean's biodiversity.  Recent studies suggest coral reefs are especially sensitive to fishing, tipping from healthy to unhealthy conditions when too many fish are harvested. Read More »

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